This week, the Student Voice Team employed a team of over 20 students to create an executive summary for our presentation to the Kentucky Board of Education on August 6th. Over the course of five days, four teams produced rich and nuanced one-page summaries of our study’s emerging themes: education environment, home environment, future plans, and socio-emotional wellness. Additionally, each team created one policy recommendation to formally recommend to stakeholders, at the school, district, and state level. This prose, written and formatted exclusively by students, has served as an effective, and deeply impactful, synthesis of our team’s qualitative and quantitative analysis over the last two months. It feels like we’ve taken a significant step in sharing the complex lived experiences that Kentucky students were brave enough to share with us in May; we are excited to build on this momentum in the coming months.
I have been misty-eyed on several Zoom calls this week after witnessing the tremendous growth of team members outside of our core team of student leaders. In addition to our report writing Zoom calls, I have also been meeting with my qualitative team to further analyze one short-answer response from the survey. Over the last month, we have analyzed 7,000 responses from students across the state. Although this feat is significant, the earnest conversations about school reopening that spring from our strong community are the most fulfilling, and needed, in this project. On Wednesday, my team spent 25 minutes discussing school reopening. However, throughout the entire conversation, they rarely mentioned themselves. Instead, they naturally gravitated towards concern, and fear, for the students who shared stories of hardship with us in the survey. My team has not analyzed data for a month; they have taken it upon themselves to listen to their peers with dignity and empathy. This moment embodied the power of youth-led participatory action research to me this week.